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Migrant identities in a new immigrant destination: revealing the limitations of the ‘hard working’ migrant identity

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Ruth McAreaveyORCiD



This is the authors' accepted manuscript of an article that has been published in its final definitive form by Wiley-Blackwell Publishing, Inc., 2017.

For re-use rights please refer to the publisher's terms and conditions.


Migrant labour has transformed local economies in many places, often helping to reverse long-term decline. The emergence of new immigrant destinations (NID) globally brings mixed opportunities for the individuals involved. This article uses empirical evidence, focusing on the workplace, to show the performance, construction and significance of migrant identity. By using social identity theory to examine what it means to be a ‘migrant’, it follows from Goffman’s overarching concern with social interactions and his promotion of microanalysis as analytical lenses. The article reveals the ambiguity of the label ‘migrant’. It shows how the external application or internal enactment of migrant identities bestow particular status that represents an asset or an obstacle to integration. It can mean ‘hard working’, ‘less deserving’ and ‘exploitable’ and it also denotes ‘lazy’ and individuals. While some individuals assume the hard working migrant and ‘exploitable’ identity in certain circumstances because of the benefits that it brings, this status can also cause high levels of dissatisfaction and distress among migrants. The research shows how the creation of a migrant identity limits the structures and networks from which migrants may draw resources and in so doing curtails the possibilities for social change due to migration.

Publication metadata

Author(s): McAreavey R

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Population, Space and Place

Year: 2017

Volume: 23

Issue: 6

Print publication date: 01/08/2017

Online publication date: 28/05/2017

Acceptance date: 11/06/2016

Date deposited: 27/06/2017

ISSN (electronic): 2046-2069

Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell Publishing, Inc.


DOI: 10.1002/psp.2044


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